He is used to handling projects that are worth millions of dollars. For a short time, engineer John Akerley was on the payroll of the Town of Princeton. His resume includes projects such as the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Air Canada Centre in Toronto and a billion dollar project in Algeria.
Akerley was born and raised in New Brunswick with his brother. His dad was an immigration officer and his mother a customs officer. He attended the Royal Military College of Canada and Queens University where he earned an engineering degree in chemistry. Akerley’s first posting was in Chilliwack for two years as a training officer for core engineering.
Then, Akerley was transferred to Quebec City for three years. “I left the service while in Quebec,” he stated. “I was second in command of a works company in a historical establishment in East Quebec. From there, I moved to Montreal to work as a construction engineer for Imperial Oil. I was with Esso for two years and then, I went back as a consultant in Quebec for two years.”
It was in 1970 that Akerley came west to B.C.. “I relocated in Vancouver,” he continued, “but Vancouver was more my home base than where I lived. I spent 20 years on various projects in Africa, including a copper mining complex in the Republic of Congo with a 100 bed hospital, five villages, 35,000 direct dependents, two copper mines, a 1000 hectare farm, one secondary school and two or three primary schools.”
“One of the first things I had to learn while located in Africa was to accept other people’s cultures and not try changing them. I had to remember I was the minority there not the majority. One of the workers there said to me, “John, after you’re gone we’re still going to be here.” It was an eye opener for me. My time spent working around the world has given me a unique perspective on life. It was a total adventure.”
Back at home, John’s wife Trisha and three kids were settled. “Every three or four months, I came home,” Akerley continued. “Trisha really held the home front together. Then, in ‘92, I came back to Vancouver and in ‘94/95 I was there for the Rogers Arena project.”
Akerley went to Toronto next. Then, into the southern United States for four years. “In ‘03 I retired,” he said laughing. “Trisha had already moved to Princeton and we built a home outside Princeton. “My retirement seemed to be short-lived however, because next thing I knew I was back doing a feasibility study and the design and construction for the South Okanagan Event Centre. This was followed by a two year stint in Algeria for a one billion dollar trade and conference centre and a five star Meridian Hotel.”
While home continuing on with his “retirement,” Akerley spent several months assisting the town in the execution of four projects; the ZigZag trail, the curb enhancement project, the courthouse restoration and the scale for the landfill. “It has been neat spending some time in my home town helping out,” Akerley admitted and while the scale of the local projects might be a tad bit smaller than what he is used to he became a valuable resource, if only for a short period of time.
Akerley’s “retirement” is now taking him back to Quebec. “I have just accepted a position as project manager and owner’s representative for a new Quebec City NHL sized multi-purpose arena.” The budget for the colossal structure is 400 million dollars.
Akerley’s talent as a project manager, engineer, bilingual Canadian and as a person have kept him in high demand. Sadly, for the town of Princeton, Akerley is off to Quebec City, but he promises to come back. “I will be back,” Akerley said with a smile. “I really like it here.”